Volleyball Tips | Secrets to Passing the Short & Deep Serve

To watch Evandro Goncalves serve is to witness the obvious power of a jump serve. The Brazilian has been named the best server in the world for five straight years for a reason: He simply overpowers opponents with a massive grenade launcher of a jump serve.

Yet most of us are not Evandro Goncalves. Most of us are human, carrying standard human shoulders that are not weapons of war. Most of us have to resort to more subtle serves – yet if we do them right, they’re just as dangerous.

John Mayer, currently the head beach volleyball coach at Loyola Marymount, has called the short serve the most under-used skill in beach volleyball. Why? It’s a low risk, high reward serve that can produce points in abundance while also tiring your opponents out, forcing them to sprint to the net, pass, retreat to their point of hesitation, then attack. Do this throughout an entire match, and what you’ll get is an exhausted opponent whose offensive rhythm has been thoroughly thrown off.

Perhaps you’ve been a victim of such serves. Perhaps you’ve been a victim of the dreaded combo: The short-deep, where one player serves you short, and the other serves you deep, perpetually keeping your offensive rhythm out of sync.

We’re here to show you how to successfully pass and attack out of both short and deep serves.

Passing Short Serves

Before we can even begin to think about passing a short or deep serve, we need to build the physical attributes necessary to move well enough in the sand. In order to do that, we highly recommend you enroll in our beach volleyball mastery course, which includes our 60-day max vertical workout program. This will get you jumping higher, hitting harder, and playing the best beach volleyball of your life, guaranteed. 

Now that we have the strength, speed, and mobility necessary to pass the short serve, let's discuss the proper sequence to do so. Passing a short serve isn't actually as complicated as you might think. All it takes is two steps and a lunge. That's it. One, two, lunge, pass. When we're lunging, ideally we'd like our outside knee to be up and our inside leg down on the sand, which will keep our body and platform facing into the court, which is where we'd like to pass the ball. 

In a perfect world, we'll lift the ball up as we come out of our lunge, potentially putting our partner on two for an option. One element of passing a short serve that you want to make sure you do well is giving yourself enough time to pass, then get back to make a full approach on the ball. Remember: Passing is just one third of the battle of siding out. You still need to give your setter enough time to set, and yourself enough time to make a full, four-step approach to get a good swing on the ball. 

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Passing the deep serve

Rule No. 1 of passing a deep serve: "Do not tomahawk in serve receive," AVP professional beach volleyball player Mark Burik said. "Get rid of it. If that server can take away your number one control item, your platform, if they take that away and force you into a tomahawk on the first touch, you’ve lost the first battle."

Don't lose the first battle. Win it by either:

  • Backpedaling: If the deep serve is high enough, you'll have time to backpedal and backpedal until you can plant, keep your chest forward, and pass the ball towards the net using your platform (not your tomahawk). 
  • Opening up: If the serve is coming fast and flat at your chest -- this is an excellent beach volleyball serve -- and you don't have time to backpedal, what you're going to want to do is open up your torso by swinging one leg back. This will give you the best angle possible to still pass using your platform (not tomahawking!) while also not getting pegged in the chest. "If the ball is coming at me faster, and the ball is coming at my throat, and I have that ugly feeling where my chest is going to get hit with the ball, the best thing you can do is drop your torso out of the way," Mark Burik explained. "We’re going to use a drop step."


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If you want to pass perfect every time, keep reading. We are going to help you pass with more accuracy, more consistency and more confidence! Get the positioning and the mechanics to control the first touch against any server, in any weather. You’ll also learn to develop a mindset that keeps you in the game so you can stay focused and win matches. 

All you have to do is sign up for our Beach Volleyball Mastery. We take you through the basics and then work all the way up to eyework and advanced mechanics so you pass every ball right where it needs to go!

We’ll show you how to pass for option (on-2) attack, how to fight off great float serves and how to pass for YOUR best offense. 

Once inside the membership, you’ll be able to unlock “Pass with Consistency and Confidence: The Serve Receive Master Class” which will build your footwork and passing platform from the ground up. It comes complete with footwork drills, solo drills, partner exercises and passing charts so you can measure your progress! 

We also include with 9 more skill courses AND our 60 Day At-Home Max Vertical Jump Training Program

Once you sign up, you'll be able to watch the in-depth tutorials, film your “before”  videos, start and film your at-home drills and begin posting to our Private Facebook Group. Then, our coaches will break down your mechanics, footwork and touch at our weekly online meetings. Yes, that means we look at YOUR videos and we coach YOU! 

Facebook Group CTA VolleyChat! Get Better at Beach Volleyball  for posts about common questions/ problems >


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